The Most Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid
Continued from: Search Engine Basics Every Marketer Should Know SEO (search engine optimization) is not an exact science and it is surrounded by many myths and misleading or simply wrong information. Working with the wrong company or following bad advice is not only a colossal waste of time and money, but it can result in an imposed penalty or a ban from search engines. Here are the most common SEO mistakes and how to avoid them.
Mistake 1. Doing Your Own SEO Instead of Hiring an Expert
SEO is a full time job and requires advanced knowledge of the current trends, strategies and algorithm changes. Many marketing professionals know the basics and believe they can do their own SEO. The truth is they can't, and they learn it the hard way. True SEO professionals stay on top of all the latest trends and know from experience what works and what doesn't. You don’t want to experiment with your website and create problems that will take more time and money to fix.
Mistake 2. Falling for Unrealistic SEO Promises
It is very important to select an SEO partner that favors using safe methods over getting fast results. Disreputable companies may promise to get you on the front page of Google search results quickly and inexpensively, but their techniques involve tricking search engines to gain better positions in search results with certain keywords. Search engines (and Google in particular) have taken very serious steps to detect, penalize and even ban websites that try to cheat the system. Engaging in shady SEO techniques could get your website penalized, or worse banned from search engines.
Mistake 3. Using "Black Hat" Methods for Quick Gains
Because the stakes are so high, before you choose an SEO vendor, you need to understand their methods. There are two types of SEO practices: “black hat” and “white hat”:
- Black Hat – These are practices that influence search results by violating search engine guidelines. Common tactics include keyword stuffing, purchased links, link exchanges (or farming), hidden text and links, blog comment spam. You can occasionally get quick gains using these methods; however, they are much, much riskier because search engines (Google in particular) actively monitor, penalize and even ban websites that try to cheat the system.
- White Hat – These are respectable practices that are accepted and encouraged by search engines. Although they include a great deal of research and analysis, they last for a long time, improve the overall user experience and make your website and accuracy of search results better for everyone. You and your SEO vendor should only use white hat techniques.
Mistake 4. Not Adapting to Search Engine Changes
Search engines continually change their algorithms to improve the quality of searches and to combat cheaters who try to manipulate the system. There have been three major changes to the Google algorithms in the past five years and a multitude of smaller updates that have significantly changed the way Google’s search engines rank websites. Keeping on top of the most recent updates is critical to achieving good search rankings. If you don’t have the bandwidth to keep up with the latest SEO trends, you should team up with SEO experts who can.
Mistake 5. Choosing Keywords without Research
One common mistake made with SEO strategies is to focus on nonstrategic keywords. Many companies waste time and resources by targeting keywords that they mistakenly think people are searching for or choosing keywords that are too competitive to rank for successfully. An SEO expert can select keywords that will generate the most searches with the least competition. They can also look for keyword synonyms, competitor brands and related topics that your customers may be researching.
Mistake 6. Producing Low Quality Content
The single goal of search engines is to help people find quality and relevant information quickly, and search engines are becoming increasingly more effective at filtering poor content from their search results. A common mistake is to purchase low-quality content just for the sake of having content. It won’t help you improve your search rankings, especially if your competitors' content is superior. If you want people to find your website, you need to invest time and money to produce quality content that will inform, educate and even entertain your prospects.
Mistake 7. Having Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is content that appears in more than one place on the Internet. Having duplicate content on your website is bad for SEO and could get your content excluded from search results entirely. Search engines rarely show duplicate content, and when it appears, they must determine the original source of the piece. As a rule of thumb, be sure that all your content is unique and original; don't reuse the same content on different areas of your website. Your web developer can help ensure that you don't have duplicate content and can set up "canonical" tags to resolve any duplicate content issues.
Mistake 8. Stuffing Your Website with Keywords
One of the biggest myths of SEO is that stuffing your website with keywords will help improve your positions in search engines. While this may have been true fifteen years ago, stuffing your website with keywords is now considered a "black hat" technique. Not only is it ineffective, but you will actually hurt your rankings, and you may be penalized or banned. And don’t think you won’t get caught—search engines have become incredibly good at identifying the overuse of keywords. Instead, invest in good content with an emphasis on a particular topic.
Mistake 9. Building Spammy Links
Another popular "black hat" SEO technique is to obtain additional links to your website through shady practices (termed "unnatural" by Google). This usually involves the following practices that today produce little effect and can lead to website penalties:
- Buying links from spammy websites from questionable sources.
- Participating in link farms or link exchanges where websites link to each other.
- Participating in blog networks where members pay bloggers to place links in their websites.
- Posting and "spinning" articles (article marketing) on websites designed for users to submit their articles solely for SEO purposes.
- Joining disreputable directories with low quality and spammy websites.
- Spamming links on forums and online communities.
- Posting excessive links in blog comments.
Instead, you should build links naturally by creating content that people want to link to, networking with potential collaborators, and guest blogging. This will not only help your SEO, but also help position your company as a thought leader.
Mistake 10. Ignoring User Experience
Google has repeatedly stated that its number one priority is to provide the best possible user experience to the masses. That is why your website will never rank high if it does not meet Google's criteria for acceptable user experience. The following factors could affect your positions if not properly addressed:
- Speed – Users today want websites to load quickly. Google does measure the speed with which websites load, and if yours is slow to load, it may adversely affect your rankings.
- Mobile Support – Mobile use is on the rise, so Google is naturally giving attention to mobile-friendly content on your website. If your website is not mobile-friendly, your positions will most definitely get a hit.
- Safety – If you website is considered unsafe by Google (e.g. contains malware, viruses or any potentially dangerous materials), Google may block it or display a warning.
- Flash – Adobe Flash is generally bad news for SEO. Search engines cannot effectively see all the text inside Flash or navigate the links. There are better and newer technologies (HTML5/CSS3) that can often replace Flash, so try to stay away from it.